In 1998, Semisonic released its one and only hit, “Closing Time,” which contained the lyric: “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” It would not be a stretch to say that describes the state of Long Island’s real estate market.
The region’s real estate is evolving, and as we back away from being the embodiment of the traditional suburb and move toward a more modern interpretation, one can see both the end of one era and the beginning of another.
There are many reasons behind the change, including the diminishing level of land available for development, the rising cost of living, shifting attitudes in housing preferences and the suffering economy. A brief historical perspective: Long Island began as an agrarian region, but it evolved into a suburb as population and development moved from west to east. The style of development shifted from more urban, in the form of apartments and attached homesteads in the west, to the post-war development of subdivisions and the separation of uses as the Long Island Expressway made its way east. It did not matter that planning for the future was largely ignored as housing requirements began to change.
Fast forward 50 years and times have indeed changed, but the single-family home has remained the cornerstone, until now. These recent changes are largely related to size. Before the crash of the last construction boom, circa 2006, the basic layout of the single-family home was larger than in decades past.
Industry observers assert that when the real estate market returns there will be greater humility in design. A recent article in The New York Times Magazine noted the development of a vacation compound in Amagansett that redefined sparse. Please don’t confuse that with inexpensive, as I am sure it was not. But the approach was distinctly different from the recent past where whiz-bang was standard.
More significantly, as the old suburban template is set aside and the new one emerges, look forward to both logistical and stylistic approaches that will forever change the landscape of the first suburb—the most significant of which will be greater development of multifamily housing, the continued revitalization of the region’s downtowns and greater efforts to mix development uses. The Village of Patchogue comes to mind as does the effort to redevelop the Ronkonkoma Hub.
This represents the end of one era for Long Island and the beginning of another, for good or ill. Caveat emptor!